|NEW RESOURCES: Michigan State Law Review Dedicated to Death Penalty Research|
Posted: August 23, 2012
The Michigan State Law Review recently dedicated a special issue to the late Professor David C. Baldus (pictured), well known for his groundbreaking research on racial bias in the death penalty. Distinguished authors contributed a variety of articles on issues related to capital punishment, including: “Capital Punishment and the Right to Life” by the late Hugo Adam Bedau and a special tribute to Prof. Baldus by Barbara O’Brien and Catherine Grosso. Other authors included in this special edition were Jeremy Collins, Steven Dow, Emily Hughes, Mona Lynch, Craig Haney, Issac Unah, Jennifer Adger, Christopher Weiss, SpearIt, Sheri Lynn Johnson, John Blume, Patrick Wilson, Michael Radelet, Jody Lynee Madeira, Mary Rose, Jeffrey Abramson, and Deborah Denno.
Reggie Clemons has been on Missouri’s death row for 19 years for the murder of two young white women. He has already come close to execution, and one of the co-defendants in the case has been executed. Clemons’ conviction was based partly on his confession to rape that he says was beaten out of him by the police. Other testimony against Clemons came from his co-defendants. Of the four men charged with the murders, three were black and one was white. The white co-defendant is already out on parole. Because of doubts that have arisen about the validity of his conviction, a special hearing will be held on September 17 to determine whether crucial errors were made in prosecuting Clemons. The special master presiding at the hearing will then present a recommendation to the Missouri Supreme Court. Clemons’ lawyers are expected to present new evidence that supports his assertion that he was physically beaten into making a confession, and that the coerced confession should not have been admitted at trial. Other issues likely to be raised include the prosecution’s failure to disclose a rape kit to defense lawyers, and that the manner in which the jury was selected was later ruled unconstitutional. (Ed Pilkington of The Guardian discusses his investigation into the case in the accompanying video.)
A recent article in the Brooklyn Law Review argues that executing long-serving, elderly death row inmates should be deemed unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment. In A Modest Proposal: The Aged of Death Row Should Be Deemed Too Old to Execute,Professor Elizabeth Rapaport (pictured) of the University of New Mexico School of Law maintains that harsh death row conditions, along with the fragility of the growing number of elderly inmates due to the aging process, result in excess suffering that should render their execution a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Rapaport states, “The long delays between pronouncement of sentence and execution, and the considerable uncertainty about whether any condemned man or woman will be executed in our system of capital punishment, have given rise to a new form of cruelty unknown to our ancestors. Delay is not aberrant but normal. It cannot be purged from the system without doing unacceptable violence to constitutionally mandated due process.”
A new book by Professors Saundra Westervelt and Kimberly Cook looks at the lives of eighteen people who had been wrongfully sentenced to death and who were later freed from death row. In Life After Death Row: Exonerees’ Search for Community and Identity, the authors focus on three central areas affecting those who had to begin a new life after leaving years of severe confinement: the seeming invisibility of these individuals after their release; the complicity of the justice system in allowing that invisibility; and the need for each of them to confront their personal trauma. C. Ronald Huff, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, noted, “The authors skillfully conduct a journey inside the minds of exonerees, allowing readers to see the world from their unique perspectives.”